3 Simple Ways to Wipe Away the Life-Gunk

I was in a meeting a couple weeks ago and a man wearing glasses caught my attention. His glasses were smudged. I mean REALLY smudged. Distractingly smudged. How was he able to see anything? To be honest, I desperately wanted to ask him for his glasses so I could clean them. I imagined him lighting up when he put them back on, “Oh Wow! Thanks, that’s soo much better!”

From there I started thinking about people’s physical and mental states; how they form the lens through which we see and interpret the world around us. When we’re feeling tired, fatigued, overwhelmed, or stressed out, it’s like our lens is covered with smudges, and it effects everything we do. Often we don’t even realize we’re not seeing clearly. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see when other people’s lenses were smudged?

When we’re fatigued, pressured, stressed, etc., our lens is distorted. It changes how we see, like a color filter on a stage light, emphasizing some things, while obscuring others. Mole hills appear as mountains. The line between important and urgent is blurry. In fact, our whole world is blurry. Our actions don’t reflect our best selves, because we’re simply not seeing clearly. We often only notice it we do something that clears our lens, and the contrast makes us think, “Oh Wow! That’s soo much better!”

Luckily there’s a lot of research out there about how to keep our lens clear.

1) Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night

The old adage, “Sleep on it, things will look better in the morning” stems from this principle. Things actually do look better in the morning! Because sleep cleans our lens. It empowers us to see the paths and choose the best one.  

[ Related rabbit hole: TONS of research about how a lack of sleep affects us. ]

2) Spending one day each week getting away

Spending a day each week outside of our usual routine gives us perspective. It empowers us to see the forest, not just the trees right in front of us, which gets us out of the weeds and moving forward. 

[ Related rabbit hole: A Harvard publication and a research paper on the benefits of taking a day off. ]

3) Writing (freeform—whatever pops into our head)

Capturing thoughts on paper amplifies the positive thoughts and diminishes the negative ones. It empowers us to provide sound advice to ourselves, because we can see more objectively. There’s benefit in keeping these notes and periodically reviewing them, but even if we shred them, we still gain clarity.

[ Related rabbit hole: Dozens of articles from Harvard Business Review on the benefits of writing. ]

Each of these practices serves as a gunk remover for our lens. Think of them as windshield wipers for your mind—wiping away the life-gunk so you can see clearly and be your best self!


Photo by Ed Leszczynskl

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